It’s called a farm bill, but it has little to do with farming. Perhaps it’s time to consider changing the name.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that about 79% of the $1-trillion cost of the Senate’s version of the farm bill would be absorbed by the food stamp program. The remainder is pretty evenly split between direct payments to farmers, conservation and other non-ag related policy goals.
There are those who argue that this is good for ag, as these expenditures protect our interests by broadening support for the mammoth budgets. Perhaps this is true, but looking forward the path is clear – budget constraints will become the overriding factor in analyzing every single program.
Folks involved in agriculture now constitute fewer than 2% of the U.S. population. Increasingly, our role is seen as supplementing the remaining industries in America by providing the safest and most cost-effective food supply in the world, increasing the amount of disposable income available for purchases of other products, and as a social tool to meet health and dietary guidelines as well as improving the environment.
When all of these elements are combined, it appears that direct payments won’t be well received by the populace, especially since the agriculture segment is outperforming virtually every other segment of the economy. At that point, one might consider getting rid of USDA and tying the food stamp program into the other welfare programs where it belongs; as well as tying the conservation and other titles back to their respective interests.